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Season 2 Episode 5
October 5, 2022

This is Vulnerability, Part 1

What is Infinite Shelf? It represents the humans on one side of the shelf that’s being stocked and prepared and the humans on the other side that are buying and participating. Where has Ingrid been over these past few months and why is she back? Listen in as she shares and introduces her new co-host, Kiri Masters.

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This Episode Sponsored by:

Infinite Shelf- Synder
Infinite Shelf- Gorgias
Infinite Shelf- Shopware

Creating Space

  • There is a human-centric shelf. There is a long dinner table. Human emotion, connection, curiosity, and our need for human connection are important matters
  • We need to start normalizing human things in the workplace and check in with our teams to know them well enough to know how they are doing as far as what support they need
  • How do we balance building a culture and getting to know people beyond just transactional task-oriented conversations, especially when we work remotely?

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Ingrid: Hello and welcome to Infinite Shelf. I'm your host, Ingrid Milman Cordy. And, well, it's been a while. I've missed you. I hope you've missed me, but I really have missed you. I owe you an apology. And also, I think actually I owe you some discussion or I owe myself some discussion. And I hope that you'll be here to listen and just maybe find a little bit of yourself in my story and just also know that you're not alone. So, yeah, it's been a little while. It's been a couple of months since the last recording and some things have happened in my life, and it has caused me... So in my personal life and my professional life, my physical health, all of those things. If you can imagine when it rains, it pours. A lot of things have gone on and it was an important moment of reflection for me. And the way that I handle moments that I need to reflect is I just kind of pause almost everything that isn't 100% critical. So I continued with my job and my responsibilities at home as a wife and a mother. But everything else, including this podcast, but also even just friendships and going out to dinners and all of those types of things, I just kind of really, really slowed down. And in that experience, I had the moment to just reprioritize and try to understand what was making me feel the way that I was and what are the things in my life that bring me joy and make me live the life that I want to live as a person and as a mother, a friend, a mentor, a professional, and a talking head on a podcast too. So I realized that having a podcast is something that I really value and something that I really get a lot out of and wanted to continue. But I needed to figure out a way to move forward with being able to host a podcast and make it tenable within my life and make it fit better within my life. So that actually led me to have the conversation with the Future Commerce team, and we had all decided to give me a co-host for at least the rest of the season and see how it goes. And Brian Lange, as you know, from Future Commerce, he's just a dear friend of mine and had been so incredibly supportive. And he said, Hey, what about Kiri Masters? You guys are great. And you guys would just kill it together." And I was like, "Kiri? Really? Well, yes. I mean, I'd be delighted and honored. She is so smart and just getting the excuse to talk to her for an hour a week would just be fantastic." And so I'm so delighted that when we presented the idea to Kiri, she was really, really open to it, maybe not as excited as I am, but she can speak to that herself. But so with all of that to say, I just wanted to introduce Kiri Masters to you all.

Kiri: Well, hello. Thank you, Ingrid, for the introduction. I'm really glad to be here. I'm happy to be here supporting you as a friend and colleague and fellow eCommerce professional that I really admire as well. And look, I've hosted a podcast for five years. The energy has come and gone, as you'd imagine, over that period of time. Some weeks I really feel like I'm phoning it in and other weeks I'm really excited and it's all amazing. So I'm really glad to be here and talking about something a little, a little different to the more tactical kind of stuff that I usually talk about on my other podcast.

Ingrid: Awesome. Yeah. And I think that what I'm happy about too is we got to really, in introducing you to the spirit of the podcast, and you asked your first question, "What is Infinite Shelf, and what does that mean to everyone and what does that mean to you? And what kind of conversations do you want to have that maybe aren't had? How are we differentiating ourselves?" And so I said, "Infinite Shelf is the human-centric retail podcast." And what I mean by that is, sure, we talk about marketing strategies and different tools that enable us to do different things, whether it's measurement or growth or any of those types of things. Sure, like we talk about those, but those are a means to an end. And the end is always talking about this Infinite Shelf, where there are humans on one side of the shelf stocking it, and there are humans on the other side of the shelf buying the things on the shelf. And it can be a digital shelf too, of course, but that's the idea. There's this long sort of dinner table, if you can imagine, in a store. And both people on each side of the shelf are humans. And so the idea of thinking about human emotion, connection, vulnerability, curiosity, our need for connection, our need for community, those were all things that we want to be able to talk about. And so, Kiri, I was so delighted when you were able to take that and get really excited and run with it. And you have all these great ideas for being able to bring that even more to the forefront. We've talked about how to retain people and grow people. We've talked about how to empower your teams and those are all fundamentally human. And I'm so proud of those conversations, but I think we can do it actually even further. And I think you coming on to the podcast and sort of shifting that mindset even more into what the human connection is and what the human element is in all of these commerce decisions and commerce goals is so exciting.

Kiri: Great. Yeah, well, maybe we can talk, and give a little preview of what we're going to be talking about in upcoming episodes. But I'd love to dig into your experience the past few months in your unplanned absence, and for what you're willing to share with the audience, I think could be a very powerful message and some things that are not really spoken about as much as they should be. What would you like to share with everyone about the circumstances leading up to your break?

Ingrid: Sure. Yeah. So I've given a lot of thought to this. And you can ask most of the people who know me as an individual, and I'm actually despite the fact that I have a podcast, I'm a very, very private person typically. If you look at my social media, there's like not a whole lot going on. And my friends are like, as soon as you became a mom, I thought I'd get like a million pictures of Theo, my son, on social media. And I feel like that's a lot of what moms... You become a mom and you just become like a massive poster. And I love consuming that content from my friends and family, but I am kind of terrible at doing it myself. And so, yeah, I'm a pretty private person. And so it took a long time for me to decide how much of the story and what was going on that I wanted to share. And the decision that I made to share what happened to me, which is a combination. Well, I'll tell you in a second. So the decision that I made to share is really with the thought that we have to start normalizing a lot of these life and health and family things that happen to us, especially as it relates to like fertility and miscarriages, which is actually one of the things that happened to me in this time period. And I think that as a society, we've actually gotten a little bit better about having those conversations. But probably in places that are like an Oprah podcast or Brené Brown or places where it's kind of like the safe space podcast to talk about, and they never really make their way into professional podcasts and they never make their way into certainly commerce podcasts. And so if I could make someone who is hopefully not, but potentially going through a loss or difficulty in conceiving or anything like that, make them feel less alone in the process, just understand that while it's heartbreaking and so incredibly challenging that it's so much more common than we talk about and that we let on. And so that was the decision to sort of take my extra extra privacy filter off and just share that openly. So that was one of the things that had happened and that was challenging both obviously physically, as you can imagine, and then just emotionally.

Kiri: Well, I'm glad that you did, because as we were talking about a little bit before we hit record, it's something that is very common and affects many, many families, but it's not talked about very often. And these are the kind of things that, like you were talking about, the human centricity of commerce and everything that we do there. These are the people that we work with alongside: our colleagues, our customers, and our bosses. Any one of those individuals can be affected by something really that is rocking their world. And working at an organization where a lot of the work that we do is online, it's done in a hybrid fashion or asynchronously, sometimes it's hard to get a read on what's going on with people and without sharing like you just have there would be a lot of assumptions perhaps about why someone is absent, why this sort of workload has been sort of shifted down. So I'm glad. I'm really glad that you've shared that.

Ingrid: Thank you. Yeah. And I think that having that happen is definitely a challenge and everyone deals with tragedy or things that are heartbreaking in their lives differently. And for me, I just yeah, I downshifted and I really also at the same time, I kind of double down on my normal, full-time job, and I was just using it to sort of avoid everything else. And so I was actually hyper online with everything like for my work, work and just blasting through a million things. And it happened to be that we were doing a humongous reorg, and I was pouring all of my emotional energy into that and just sort of like glazing over some of the personal stuff. And I think that, upon reflection, even that behavior is something like it's not just the turning down, it's maybe even like manic, "Ingrid, why am I getting emails from you at 5:00 in the morning or midnight or both in the same 24-hour period?" That should also cause managers and leaders to just check in and say, "Hey, how are you?"

Kiri: Yep.

Ingrid: I think also so I was on a call with someone today and the conversation was really challenging and I was just there as a support person. But the conversation was challenging with the two people that were having it. And one of the people ended up kind of getting emotional and in tears. And so, of course, I'm like Slacking to the person in the meantime, "You are so strong. You're doing great. I'm really, really proud of you." Just like cheering them on because they were sort of facing this really scary thing that we had been talking about and the reason why I was there to support them. And we got off the phone call and I said, of course, "Call me. Let's talk about it. Let's debrief." And she said, "I started crying and my husband walked past the room and said, "No, crying at work," and kept walking." And of course, he was trying to support her, but in a very different way. Because he's only taught the way that he's taught. And so I said, "I'm sure his intention was to support you and to beef you up so that you didn't feel like you needed to get emotional." But in reality, that's just like weird old school, masculine, separation of work and professional and personal lives that I think just especially now that we're all sitting and working in our bedrooms and living rooms and dining rooms and have our children in our lap because they couldn't go to daycare because they got COVID for the third time or whatever it might be. {laughter}.

Kiri: {laughter} Yup.

Ingrid: Those lines have gotten so blurred that those old rules, I don't even think there was a place for them to begin with, but there certainly isn't a place for them today, especially if we're trying to create connected teams and connected brands that connect with consumers. And it's just like this whole new way of thinking. And it just planted this whole conversation that I was excited to just share with you all as an audience and share with you, Kiri. And how do we stop that from happening? And that was another reason why I said I'm going to open up my vulnerability here and just explain that, yeah, I had a miscarriage. It wasn't my first miscarriage, which is also challenging. Thankfully, I have my son. He is incredible, but it's still heartbreaking. And then we all got COVID and then there was this reorg and it all, of course, happened all at the same time. And so, yeah, there's emotion, man. It's really, really weird to not expect there to be emotion around all of those things.

Kiri: Well, I'm sorry for your loss.

Ingrid: Thank you. Thank you.

Kiri: And one thing that I'm glad that you corrected my assumption, actually, which is your way of coping with that situation, at least initially, was I'm going to throw myself into work and get everything done and be hyper, hyper available because that's not necessarily the response a lot of people would expect you to take. And it might be viewed as, "Wow, Ingrid is really stepping up. She's really pushing it. Isn't that great? Isn't that wonderful? Let's celebrate it." And in the background, your life is extremely challenging.

Ingrid: Yeah. Yeah. It's always, whenever there's... You get to know people and their work styles and when they send emails and when they stop and once you start seeing some different behaviors in either direction, it's always a good thing to check in, but also just check in. Are you having one on ones with your team? How frequently are you checking in with the people who work with you and around you? How do you manage that, Kiri?

Kiri: Yeah, well, our team is mostly remote and I'm a huge remote fan. Huge. I will defend remote working until I die. But I will admit it is more challenging to build a personal relationship purely online, so you have to be much more intentional with it. And it takes a little bit longer. So it's definitely something that I've had to work on and cultivate over the years as well. I really believe that management and leadership is not an innate skill. People were not born that way. There are some people, I guess, that have more of a natural inclination, but this is a muscle that needs to be built over time.

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